Tuesday, February 15, 2022

The Once and Future Rye, Part 1: Introducing the Whiskey That Was America



1: Introducing the Whiskey That Was America

Consider the strange fate of rye whiskey. From the earliest days of the Republic to the onset of Prohibition, it was the American tipple. From Miami to Seattle, if you stopped in a roadhouse and ordered a shot of whiskey, rye was what the barkeep poured into your glass.

Yet by the 1950s, rye was perilously close to being forgotten. Where bourbon emerged gloriously from the Great Depression, self-mythologized and available from a constantly growing number of distilleries, only a handful of bottom-shelf brands of rye survived... and some of those, it has to be said, only at the benevolent toleration of a few bourbon distilleries.

Even in Washington, Pennsylvania, the birthplace of the Whiskey Rebellion, rye was so forgotten that public schools taught that it was taxation of corn whiskey that was behind the uprising.

The recent resurrection of rye whiskey is one of the few signs that the twenty-first century may have something to offer civilization. So the proprietors of The American Martini Institute and The American Martini Laboratory propose to present the history of the Whiskey That Was America here.

To help you get started, here is the recipe for the quintessential rye cocktail:



3 ounces rye

1 ounce sweet vermouth

2 dashes cherry bitters

spiced cherry


directions: mix, chill and serve with a spiced cherry for garnish


Note that the AML uses cherries spiced in-house and not those dreadful candied things they sell in a jar. It makes a tremendous difference.


Next Wednesday: The Once and Future Rye, Part 2: Drinking Like A (Colonial) American

Above: A small fraction of the  research materials employed by The American Martini Laboratory in this project.




Tim Walters said...

By a tasty coincidence, I finished an Improved Whiskey Cocktail not an hour before reading this.

Unknown said...

Please, please tell me that the rye posts will, at some point, be collected in a beautifully bound and fantastically designed booklet from Dragonstairs Press.


Michael Swanwick said...

That is the intention. It will almost certainly happen.

A word of caution: The last time Dragonstairs Press published an American Martini Institute chapbook, it sold out very fast. That was an edition of only 60, though. I'm urging Marianne to issue it in a larger edition, possibly of 100. But she's the proprietor here, and I'm just the content provider. I can only offer advice.

EricBourland said...

The recipe sounds delicious. Will attempt.